Most of government-supplied COVID vaccines to private hospitals last month remained unused, as per data prepared by the Health Ministry. The used dosage percentage in private facilities stood at a mere 17 per cent. This happened even as states reported a massive shortage of vaccines.
The Health Ministry said in a press release on June 4 that a total of 7.4 crore doses were made available across the country in May, of which 1.85 crore doses were marked for private hospitals.
However, private hospitals across India procured 1.29 crore vaccine and used only 22 lakh doses. Experts believe high prices at private hospitals and vaccine hesitancy were the likely factors for low vaccine consumption.
The admission of the under-utilisation is mentioned in a government press release to rebut media reports that only 7.5 per cent of the jabs were being used, an NDTV report said. “A few media reports have mentioned that ‘25 per cent doses allocated to private hospitals, but they account for only 7.5 per cent of total jabs’. These reports are not accurate and do not match with the available data,” the government release said.
The government has now fixed the maximum price that private hospitals can charge for Covid vaccines amid opposition allegations of profiteering. Covishield would cost ₹ 780 per dose, Russian vaccine Sputnik V at ₹ 1,145 a dose and indigenously made Covaxin, at a steep ₹ 1,410 a dose. This includes taxes as well as a service charge of ₹ 150 for the hospitals.
The new vaccine policy, announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, will come into force from June 21, International Yoga Day. The Centre has said it will procure 75 per cent of the vaccines produced by companies, including the 25 per cent currently assigned to states. Private hospitals will continue to buy the rest of 25 per cent and inoculate those who are willing to pay.
In government-run institutions, vaccines will be provided for free to eligible persons. The earlier vaccine policy came under criticism due to differential pricing. Critics pointed out that many countries are inoculating all sections of their population for free. India has so far administered over 24 crore doses and aims to vaccinate over 108 crore people by this year-end.